Food companies have been using the snowy-colored vegetable — and others — to cash in on the low-carb, gluten-free trend. A local dietitian explains what’s so appealing about cauliflower.
Cauliflower is from the cruciferous vegetable family, the same as cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and other green-colored relatives.
“Usually brightly colored fruits and vegetables are a sign of high-vitamin content,” says Maggy Boyd, a dietitian with Parkland Hospital System. “But just because something doesn’t have bright colors, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have vitamins or minerals.”
White cauliflower (there are also other colored varieties) is high in vitamin C. It also contains vitamin K, and moderate levels of B vitamins, fiber, amino acids and some other minerals like potassium and phosphorous.
Boyd says cauliflower’s also a good source of energy when you’re trying to cut down on overall calories or carbohydrates, which explains the cauliflower rice, cauliflower tots and other variations now in the frozen food section.
“It has a similar texture and feel to rice,” she says, “so you can sub it out for the carbohydrates in recipes sometimes.”
One way of substituting carbs for cauliflower: If you just take the head of cauliflower and put it in a food processor and pulse it, that’s what you call cauliflower rice. You can use cauliflower rice to sub out real rice in recipes. For example, at home I make cauliflower fried rice. So, instead of using actual rice, I’ll take the rice out and use cauliflower rice. You get a lot more vegetables in your serving of food.
About cauliflower's smell and how to eliminate it: As part of the cruciferous vegetable family, they contain sulfur-rich compounds. When it is cooked, it gives off a unique odor — a distinct rotten egg odor. That’s the sulfur coming out of the vegetable. But there are different ways of cooking it to reduce or eliminate the smell. Some recommendations include adding a bay leaf to the boiling or steaming water, adding some cider vinegar to the cooking water, placing a slice of white bread in the cooking water, or else if you don’t cook it, it doesn’t release the smell.
Other health benefits of cauliflower:
- Inflammation: One cup of raw cauliflower will provide 85 percent of your daily value of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which can help with inflammation and fighting off cold and infection.
- Improves digestion and detoxifies: Cauliflower is a good source of fiber. Fiber’s going to be good for digestive health.
- Supports healthy weight loss: Because of its lower calorie and carbohydrate content, it’s not a dense food. It can help with weight loss and weight maintenance, especially if you’re cutting out your rice or your carbohydrate at a meal and replacing it with cauliflower; you’re likely going to reduce calorie consumption at that meal.